Five Weeks in a Balloon
The Article in the Daily Telegraph.--War between the Scientific Journals.-- Mr.
Petermann backs his Friend Dr. Ferguson.--Reply of the Savant Koner. --Bets made.--
Sundry Propositions offered to the Doctor.
On the next day, in its number of January 15th, the Daily Telegraph published an article
couched in the following terms:
"Africa is, at length, about to surrender the secret of her vast solitudes; a modern OEdipus
is to give us the key to that enigma which the learned men of sixty centuries have not
been able to decipher. In other days, to seek the sources of the Nile--fontes Nili quoerere-
-was regarded as a mad endeavor, a chimera that could not be realized.
"Dr. Barth, in following out to Soudan the track traced by Denham and Clapperton; Dr.
Livingstone, in multiplying his fearless explorations from the Cape of Good Hope to the
basin of the Zambesi; Captains Burton and Speke, in the discovery of the great interior
lakes, have opened three highways to modern civilization. THEIR POINT OF
INTERSECTION, which no traveller has yet been able to reach, is the very heart of
Africa, and it is thither that all efforts should now be directed.
"The labors of these hardy pioneers of science are now about to be knit together by the
daring project of Dr. Samuel Ferguson, whose fine explorations our readers have
frequently had the opportunity of appreciating.
"This intrepid discoverer proposes to traverse all Africa from east to west IN A
BALLOON. If we are well informed, the point of departure for this surprising journey is
to be the island of Zanzibar, upon the eastern coast. As for the point of arrival, it is
reserved for Providence alone to designate.
"The proposal for this scientific undertaking was officially made, yesterday, at the rooms
of the Royal Geographical Society, and the sum of twenty-five hundred pounds was
voted to defray the expenses of the enterprise.
"We shall keep our readers informed as to the progress of this enterprise, which has no
precedent in the annals of exploration."
As may be supposed, the foregoing article had an enormous echo among scientific
people. At first, it stirred up a storm of incredulity; Dr. Ferguson passed for a purely
chimerical personage of the Barnum stamp, who, after having gone through the United
States, proposed to "do" the British Isles.
A humorous reply appeared in the February number of the Bulletins de la Societe
Geographique of Geneva, which very wittily showed up the Royal Society of London and
their phenomenal sturgeon.